Posted by: malechallengemedia | January 22, 2013

TB or not TB truthful – The Inconvenient Truths of Lance Armstrong and Ian Gawler

By Pip Cornall – Director – The Grace Gawler Institute for Integrated Cancer Solutions

Doctor denounces Gawler program’s ‘harsh’ healing: Cancer ‘healer’ Gawler’s foundation in crisis: Coffee enemas don’t cure cancer: reviewing the remarkable claims of Ian Gawler: Gawler did not have cancer: GP First wife disputes cancer guru Ian Gawler’s survival story:TB or not TB: Gawler

These are just a few of the headlines that have opened the Pandora’s Box on Ian Gawler’s recovery story in a similar fashion to the unfolding of Lance Armstrong’s long-term cheating efforts.

The world watched Oprah as a stony faced Armstrong confessed after nearly two decades of vigorous denial. Despite numerous attempts by his peers to expose the cheating, Armstrong had the protection provided by celebrity and national hero status and the moral high ground given by his cancer charity work. Those who told the truth were vilified; livelihoods were ruined.

The events leading to his confession were driven by a most inconvenient woman, Betsy Andreu. She and her husband had once been close friends with Armstrong. Betsy was, just as stubborn and headstrong as Armstrong; no less relentless in the pursuit of her goal. The difference was that only one of them was telling the truth. Please bookmark this thought. At a time when a fawning media competed to compose praises to Armstrong, she struck a discordant note.

Similarly, for decades, Ian Gawler was fawned over by the Australian media as the miracle man who conquered cancer single handed but the media was unaware that the 1978 Meares Medical Journal abstract that launched Gawler into the media spotlight, contained serious errors of fact of which he was well aware.1

More discrepancies evolved after Gawler separated from his first wife Grace in 1997. It was then that Gawler’s cancer recovery story began to change, becoming congruent with the new ideology promoted and sold by his foundation; that it was alternative medicine, positive thinking and meditation that cured his cancer.

Continuing this trend, in 2008, a report about Gawler’s recovery appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia under the title of “True Stories” 2 (MJA). It was an ‘in-house’ article, co-written by Gawler’s wife, Dr Ruth Gawler along with friend and colleague, Prof George Jelinek, who also ran courses at the Gawler’s Foundation. Remarkably the article was reviewed by Prof Jelinek’s wife, Dr Sandra Neate, but these relationships were not disclosed as per MJA protocols.

Notified by a former patient of inaccuracies in the ‘True Stories MJA report; Grace set to work. After a year of fact checking by then editor Dr Martin Van der Weyden, the MJA published her rebuttal letter3. (September 2010) Gawler later admitted knowledge of some errors but continued promoting the now shown-to-be-flawed article on the Gawler Foundation website.

Grace Gawler, the only living person with first-hand knowledge of what really happened, sharing as she did in his cancer journey, was insistent Gawler had a responsibility to tell the truth to the cancer public. She was concerned that cancer patients and their doctors might base treatment choices on the 2008 MJA report which contained multiple errors of fact and alterations to crucial timelines. It implied a vegan diet and meditation cured his cancer and worse still, it implied that Gawler had more tumour load than he actually had when he was first diagnosed.

As Gawler’s media profile grew, Grace found she was consulting increasingly large numbers of patients who had jeopardised their health trying to follow what ‘they thought Gawler had done’ to recover. Gawler never had a vegan diet in the 22 years Grace prepared his meals and she knew his meditation efforts had not cured the bony outcrops that appeared in and on his body.

It was thought that these lumps were manifestations of bone cancer but they were never biopsied. He was diagnosed with advanced TB in June 1978 and his specialist said it had been present (but undiagnosed) on X-rays for at least two and a half years. It always annoyed her that he had omitted to mention the TB in the 250,000 copies of his book You Can Conquer Cancer. Was it metastatic cancer or was it all TB? She had always wondered about the role TB had played in his recovery.

Sadly articles in prestigious medical journals have been used before to promote self interest and financial gain. In Armstrong’s case, a paper in The Journal of Applied Physiology (2005) appeared to prove his superior muscle efficiency and thus the reason for his Tour de France successes. But it has also been repeatedly used by Armstrong and his lawyers to fend off allegations that his cycling success, came in part through doping. After repeated challenges by 3 Australian physiologists, the author, Edward F. Coyle, a respected human-performance expert with the University of Texas in Austin, acknowledged making an error in his long-term study. Coyle had also been a paid consultant for Armstrong in a dispute with SCA Promotions, and had said “The author very much appreciates the respectful cooperation and positive attitude of Lance Armstrong over the years.”

Naturally Armstrong cooperated! The paper gave official medical and scientific credence to his cheating and put the ‘doubters’ to rest. Cycling was big business and big business does what is necessary to protect its interests. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Gawler 2008 MJA report was published to coincide with Gawler’s new biography, a book promoted as ‘unflinchingly honest,’ but one that neglected much crucial information by Gawler’ ex-wife, Grace. Certainly the Gawler Foundation promoted the ‘flawed’ MJA report as a ‘media release’ and on their website. That’s the cancer business.

As I said earlier in Armstrong and Andrue’s scenario, only one of them was telling the truth. Indeed, Gawler’s misreported recovery story had the potential to harm more people than the Armstrong deceptions, but every time Gawler told his version to the media; when Grace Gawler asked for rebuttal time, it was always refused. Who was telling the truth?

I was present when the Women’s Weekly sent an upmarket photographer and makeup artist to our home to finalise production, prior to printing her story. There had been several lengthy interviews with Grace; however despite months of promises, the article was never published. I came to understand that this avoidance by media was a pattern. I was also present on two different occasions in 2010 and 2011, when Channel 7 and Channel 9 filmed Grace for 3 hours to publicise issues arising from her 2010 MJA letter. Again neither program went to air! All three had invested considerable time and money on Grace’s interviews and I wondered what invisible forces prevented them from reaching the public arena.

Conversely, Gawler continued to make numerous media appearances after Grace’s MJA rebuttal letter. Like Armstrong’s case there were many people on the Gawler ‘gravy train’ and Grace’s revelations had the potential to harm the lucrative alternative cancer medicine industry. Patients told us of alternative cancer therapists charging $3000 for day-long consultations and of integrative GPs charging $600 for sessions with hundreds of dollars extra added for supplements.

Like Betsy Andreu, with the first publicity, “First Wife Disputes”9 Grace was vilified in the media as the spiteful ex-wife, her career was damaged and defamation threats were made by Gawler’s Foundation. Like the cyclists who could not get work if they threatened Armstrong’s empire, Grace struggled to get vital media support to continue her work, something which can spell financial ruin.

Others were intimidated as well. In 2011, the MJA editor agreed to publish a paper authored by, two prominent oncologists which gave, for the first time, a plausible scientific explanation for Gawler’s recovery—that he was misdiagnosed. That he had TB and not secondary cancer.4 But later a new editor of the MJA was appointed and the paper was rejected.

When challenged by researcher Dr Emma McBryde, the MJA’s explanation was that Gawler himself had not permitted it to be published. She had commented that “Testing anomalous claims of cure and suggesting rational alternative explanations is part of the discourse of science. Should not the role of the journal editor be to support those who contribute rational criticism of untested claims?”5

An ‘Armstrongesque’ Gawler had changed his approach now maintaining his medical history was not as important as the healing work he had done for decades. Asked about inconsistencies and omissions in the ways he has presented his own complicated medical history, Gawler acknowledges that over time some of the details have become ‘muddied.’ But, he says, ”Who cares?” 6

Dr Linda Calabresi, medical editor of Australian Doctor, says this response ignores the fact that much of his personal success and that of his foundation derives from the idea that he is living proof of the theories he espouses. His stance puts him at risk of exploiting vulnerable people with cancer.6

Now that Armstrong has admitted some guilt the world has finally begun to appreciate Betsy Andreu for her persistence. The tables are turned. No longer vilified or dismissed as crazy, Andreu is the true hero of the day while on the other hand, after nearly two decades vigorously defending his cheating, Armstrong is widely seen as a pathological liar—a man not to be trusted.

With Armstrong style bravado, despite all the media coverage throwing doubt on his recovery story, Gawler has audaciously re-edited and published his famous book You Can Conquer Cancer. In his book as well as in his blogs, 7,8 Gawler attempts to discredit the oncologists who suggested his secondary cancer was misdiagnosed. His book also contains the now-shown-to-be flawed MJA reports about his recovery, despite publicly admitting knowledge of errors.

Will Gawler follow ‘Armstrong’ and come clean? Is the media up to the task or will they continue to ignore Grace Gawler’s attempts to protect cancer patients by revealing the truth of a famous story she also lived 24/7 for two decades? Will the media continue to give credence to the notion of the spiteful ex-wife9 hell bent on discrediting her ex husband—a convenient smokescreen to an inconvenient woman?

Australian cancer patients deserve the truth about Ian Gawler’s ‘cancer cure’ – a ‘cure’ now written into folklore. Unlike people impacted by Armstrong’s confessions, their lives may depend upon it.

REFERENCES:

  1. Regression of Osteogenic Sarcoma Metastases Associated with  Intensive Meditation  A. Meares Med.J.Aust; 1978, 2: 433
    1. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2008/189/11/thirty-year-follow-pneumonectomy-58-year-old-survivor-disseminated-osteosarcoma
    2. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/193/6/cancer-patients-risk-inaccurate-clinical-reporting-high-profile-alternative
    3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22188466
    4. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/10/mja-and-gawler-case-self-censorship
    5. http://www.theage.com.au/national/health/too-good-to-be-true-20120420-1xcgn.html#ixzz2IZ9z3GpY
    6. http://www.gawlerblog.com/2012/11/ian-gawler-blog-if-it-looks-like-duck.html
    7. http://www.gawlerblog.com/2012/01/nobody-expects-spanish-inquisition.html
    8. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/first-wife-disputes-cancer-guru-ian-gawlers-survival-story/story-e6frg8y6-1225935666765
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